The Early Church: A Compassionate Community

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[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here: http://jasonwhitehurst.org/2013/11/12/early-church-compassionate-community/%5D

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The early church got it right.

Sociologists marvel at how a despised movement that started in a corner of Palestine, could become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire.

The Apology of Tertullian in 197 AD sums it up.  The most amazing pagan observation of the early church was, “See how they love one another.”

This wasn’t a coincidence.  Jesus gave His followers a new commandin John 13:34.

The early church did not set out to build great buildings or “mega-churches”.  They just set out to do what Jesus taught them to do.

They kept things simple.  They did four main things, according to Acts 2:42-47.

1.  They taught what Jesus taught.  
2.  They fellowshipped.  
3.  They ate.  
4.  They prayed.

Through these four things, they were led to sell what they had and give to each other as each one had a need.

They gained favor with the people in an urban part of the Roman Empire, known as being a harsh and brutal society.

Through this love they had for another based on the command that Jesus gave them, they lived together in community, gained favor with people, and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.

To those who were homeless and impoverishedthe early church offered food and shelter.

To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.

To the outcasts of societythey offered a place of acceptance.

To those who were sickthe early Christians offered nursing and medical services.

Through their radical acts of love and kindness, the early church gained a foothold in a brutal and barbaric culture.

Rodney Stark, a modern sociologist who wrote “The Rise of Christianity”, said about the early church,

For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.” 

They did not just start a movement, which they did do, but more than that they changed the culture.

Justin Martyr wrote that it was the consistency of their lives that caused non-Christians, to become Christians.

Over the course of history, once Christianity moved from being a movement to the dominant faith of the Roman Empire, it began to become a “baptized-form” of Judaism.

Buildings started being built.  Rules and regulations started being added.  Structure was put into place.

None of these things in and of themselves are bad.  But these things began to change what had given Christianity a foothold and traction in society.

Fast-forward 2,000 years and look at the churches in our culture today.  They do not enjoy the same leverage and favor that the early church did.

Which begs the question, where did the church go wrong?

At what point did the church move from being a compassionate community to becoming what it is today?

The church has lost it’s voice.  The church has lost it’s authority in society.

The church, at some point, took for granted the God-given favor it enjoyed with culture and society.

The church for a long time was able to speak from a place of majority and authority.

Today, the church has lost the majority and cannot speak from a position of authority.

The early church got it right.

What They Don’t Tell You About Motivational Speakers!

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anthonyverderameWe’ve all heard them before, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn,  Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, et. al.; motivational speakers.  My personal all time favorite was Zig.  These speakers are both entertaining and enlightening.  I have always thoroughly enjoyed listening to people like these.

When I begin talking about motivational speaking, I am reminded of a quote by Zig.  He said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”  We hear that and chuckle.  When I first heard that, I remember thinking, “Yeah….right on Zig!” Yes it IS right.  Hence my concern.

This is the difference between motivational speaking and  speaking. It is my heart’s desire to seek out and hear transformational speakers.  It is the reason I describe myself as “transformational.” But what really is the difference? A brief note: I am speaking of a difference NOT necessarily right & wrong; bad or good! 

First, let’s let dictionary.com help us with definitions!

MOTIVATE: to provide with a motive or motives; inciteimpel.  They further provide us with telling synonyms: inducemove, provokepromptcause.
TRANSFORM: 1. to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.  2. to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.  3. to change into another substance; transmute. Here are some great synonyms: 

Did you catch the subtle, simple and yet profound difference.  It’s as simple as the difference between “extrinsic” and “intrinsic”; and the difference between “doing” and “being.”

A motivational speaker may inspire and entertain with the result of a prompting from without to DO!  A transformational speaker may inspire and entertain as well resulting in an inner change of the person to BECOME!

A transformational speaker has an ability to share life!  It is a transference of life principles and TRUTH that so inspires, convict and moves a person from within that a paradigm of theirs has shifted.  This might be a huge shift or can be a simple truth like, “I really AM loved!” which may change the person’s view of themselves.

So, Zig IS right! We DO often need to be prompted or provoked to do or achieve. But when a person has experienced a change from within often the direction and action of that life WILL be effected as well.

A Tiny Verse – A BIG Message!!!

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Yes, John 5:41 is a tiny verse but it truly packs a punch.  Jesus was speaking, and He said, “I do not receive glory from men;” Read that again and chew on it for a few moments. 

If there was a man alive at that time who deserved “recognition”, “honor”, “glory”, etc. it was Jesus.  Lives were healed, changed and transformed after encountering Him, and people therefore began following Him.  Yet, He says, “I do not receive glory from men.” Why?

First, He knew WHO He was while on earth.  Earlier in the chapter in vv 19-20 in tells the people that He doesn’t go anywhere or do anything unless the Father tells Him to.  He walked in dependency upon His Father, because He understood it was ALL for His Father’s honor and glory…period.  He was His Father’s Son, and it was His Father’s life He lived by.

Also, notice He made a choice.  He decided to not let the glory “stick.”  If someone gave you a gift, you don’t HAVE to receive it.  You can simply say, “That was kind, but not thank you.”  This is precisely what Jesus did while here on the earth.  He knew that He couldn’t control the actions of others.  He knew He couldn’t stop their choice of wanted to glorify Himself, but He COULD make a choice; to decide to take upon Himself the glory due His father.

Sadly we as humans do the exact opposite.  Whether you are leading a family, teaching a Bible study, on staff at a church or ministry, pastoring a church or whatever, are you willfully accepting the praise and glory that is due Jesus?  It is HIS life, His ministry, His love, His blessings, His wisdom…….HIS GLORY!!!

So, the next time someone mistakenly tries to GIVE you glory first believe that it really is NOT about you and then next simply say, “You are so kind! Isn’t Jesus wonderful?  Our Father loves us so desperately!” (or something like this) Thereby, you will be deflecting the praise and glory to our Father!

Now read the whole passage from John 5:41-44 from The Message Bible:

“I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking you rivals and ignoring God.”

OBEDIENCE AND THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN

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[This was a letter I wrote in response to an online conversation of our organic fellowship I am a part of]

Hey Matt & body!
First, I am concerned that those who may not know you as well as I do, may read the below email as if it was written with a spirit of contention.  I know your heart & because I do, I know you wrote it in love.  Anyway, I just wanted to make sure no one was distracted by a misunderstanding. Blessings!!!

Let me start by stating publicly how much I appreciate Matt & Elisa’s heart for the lost AND for Jesus’ body.  Matt, I have always appreciated your lens from which you see Jesus & His body.  You are right on when it comes to “obedience” (daily sanctifying walk) and it is born out of and rises from our new life (finished work of Christ IN us). Both your heart & Dave’s heart regarding truth are desperately needed, because it helps us be a healthier body.

I want to briefly further weigh in on this discussion.  First, it is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ body in action. Only when we share life together do we get the complete picture of HIM.  Both Matt & Dave are right on.  We work OUT that which WAS worked IN!!! Phil. 2:12b-13 says, “…but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  

Our life in Christ is not “positional” nor is it “legal”. It IS what it is. A new life for a dead man.  As this new person, according to Col. 3:1 & Eph. 2:6, I have been raised (past tense-finished work) with Jesus and I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places. I AM forgiven…sanctified…holy…righteous…etc. etc. So…..now what?

Obedience without life (resulting in an intimate loving relationship) is religion and breeds death. In the NT, the phrase “bond servants” is used 12 times after the resurrection. What a glorious picture of our life in Jesus.  You see a bond servant was considered as a true part of the master’s family. His gratitude & love was so strong for his master when he was an indentured servant that he wanted to spend his life in lovingly service to his master.  True obedience IN CHRIST therefore, is a natural by product of the life we DO have as HIS SON’S/DAUGHTERS.  What are we obeying after all?  His voice…His heart…His passion…His desires!!! It is born out of a deeply intimate life with Jesus.

I spent a long time in my walk with Jesus “working hard for Jesus” and to be obedient & was also taught & told to so. This kind of life sent me deeper into a life of addiction and sin. Why? Because the law produces death…period.  Yes obedience should definitely be a part of our lives, because it is the natural by-product of the life we receive.  Hence the beauty of living in community together as His body.  We should be sharing our passions & desires that Jesus has placed in us to encourage and stimulate growth in HIS body.

I think the challenge is somewhat semantical. Obey is a verb; Obedience is a noun.  If you do a search, obey as it is primarily directed to the disciples, is used by Jesus prior to the cross & resurrection…hence under the old covenant. Whereas obedience (what we have in Jesus) is used in the New Covenant.  Jesus was burying those He taught under the burden of the law in order to accomplish the work of the law which is to lead them to their Savior (Himself.) (Also read Gal. 3:24-25.) We need to be careful regarding the preaching of “obeying” that is not born out of life in Jesus (intimacy.) Why? I Cor. 15:56 says, “…and the power of sin is the law.”

As for 1 Jn. 2:6, the logical question is how did Jesus walk? He walked in absolute dependency on His Father as the very sustenance of life.  Remember Jesus said He only spoke & did what Father told Him too. Again, this was born out of that intimate, real life that He experienced with our Father.

Therefore, brother Matt & Dave we must encourage each other to be diligent to DO somethings:

Eph 4:3 = “…to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.”
2 Tim 2:15 = “…to present yourself approved [accepted/pleasing] to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 
[my favorite] Heb. 4:11 = “…to enter that rest [Jesus], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience [like the Jews who did not enter His rest]”
[I believe we should be “striving” and “working” to encourage & stimulate each other to walk in the REST that IS ours IN Jesus]
2 Pet. 1:10 = “to make certain about His calling and choosing you;”
2 Pet 3:14 = to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,”

I am not writing this response as a defense to anything or as an indictment on anyone.  I love the body & long to see us walk in love and harmony in the truth.  We are ALL unique parts of Jesus body (life) and we each provide a glorious balance to each other.  Let us walk in the obedience that is ours & walk in truth and total dependency on Jesus who IS our life.  There is so much more that I would like to write, but I will spare you my beloved family…LOL!

I want to conclude with Peter’s words:
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL CHRISTIANS REGARDING HYPNOSIS

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Dear ____,

Your e-mail upsets and angers me.  My feelings are NOT directed at you, but at this system of religion that has so blinded us all. You are a dear sweet sister and I know you are merely speaking from a heart of love.  Yet out of the overflow of ignorance that is out there amongst Christians, many speak out.  How can you make such strong claims if you, by your own admission, are “by no means…an authority on the subject”?  This is the type of legalistic blindness I had that led me away from pursuing a psychology and/or hypnosis at the age of 18.

Having said all this, I will answer your message point by point.  You’ll notice as I go through, that your comments/questions are based on many flawed presuppositions.

1)    “Is being under the influence of another’s suggestions, while in a hypnotic state of mind, being of sober mind?” 

Your presupposition is that the person is UNDER the influence.  This is furthest from the truth of what hypnosis is.  Hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we ALL experience at least twice a day & often many times a day.  I will define it later.  You are presupposing that the person is submitting to another’s will. NO….NO….NO!!! The client is absolutely in control at ALL times….period!  There are merely agreeing to be led by someone to their desired goal.  They are NOT under anything but rather are IN a natural AND common state of mind.

2)    In order for this kind of “therapy” to be effective must the subject/patient be willingly susceptible to suggestion?

Again, your question is presupposing that the client is “subject”.  THEY ARE NOT!!!  THEY are in control & are merely following the direction of the hypnotist or being willingly guided.  For example, just like a midwife assists the mother in the NATURAL birthing process, so do I assist someone like a “mental midwife” in the  natural process of how the mind operates, in order to “give birth” to the transformation they desire.  Also, your presupposition is flawed in that EVERYONE is “susceptible to suggestion”.  It’s not right or wrong, bad or good.  It is merely the human condition.

3)    The power of “suggestion”? Is this the way of Christ? 

Again, do you see what you are assuming???  The power of suggestion is NOT the way of Christ.  Why is that wrong or evil?  If a police officer runs in to the room & yells, “Get in the basement! There is a mad man with a machine gun!”  What would we do?  Our heart rates would jump; fear would grip some; some would cry; we would run; etc., etc.  Why?  Aren’t they “succumbing” to the “power” of suggestion?  Is that the way of Christ?  Just the mere questions sounds silly now doesn’t it.  But guess what?  I just described people who were in a light state of hypnosis.  You see the “trance” state as many call it, is VERY normal & natural.  You experience it every day as you are about to fall “into” natural sleep & when you are “waking” from a natural sleep.

4)    Is it possible, that while under such loss of at least a certain amount of control, perhaps even willingly giving up our will temporarily, we could be opening the door for something other than what we intend?

___, you can see that I don’t even have to answer this because it has been answered.  A person is NOT under anything!  They do NOT loss control of anything!  Their will is NEVER surrend….period!!!  They are actually in MORE control than in a “waking” state.  In other words, your SM is in a state of HIGHTENED awareness. So, theoretically speaking ____ if a person is truly IN Christ, then they would be MORE opened to Jesus NOT the devil or evil, because our identity is newly created IN Christ Jesus!

5)    In what way is this being of sober mind?

I was excited when I read this.  The Greek word for “sober” is nafo.  Here is a brief definition of this word: 1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit; 2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.  Hmmm?  Sounds a little like hypnosis to me.  In what way is what I just explained (above) NOT sober minded.  As a matter of fact, when a person is experiencing the wonderful state of hypnosis, their awareness is extremely heightened as well as all of their senses.  Could this not be defined as “sober minded”.  When you are “seeing” or experiencing your past or a recent past event, everything becomes much, much clearer.  Sounds a bit like a sober minded person.

6)    Is it not Christ Himself who changes us from within? Can we (ourselves) or another person change us, as regarding the increase of Christ in us; the Life of Christ? If not, what is being changed in us and by whom? If it is so that it is not Christ, then all other would only be considered other than Christ, be that the will of man or a different other. What is the point if it is not Christ? 

I am SO glad you asked all of these questions.  First YES…Jesus recreates us within our spirits into a NEW CREATION.  Hypnosis has nothing do with our new life in Jesus.  This is NOT what I am speaking about in regard to hypnosis. 

Believe it or not THIS is the very reason why I decided to pursue & use hypnosis.  Case in point…..YOU!  Why do you still struggle with the fears you have; and maybe some other issues?  I know you love Jesus & you ARE being conformed into His image, and yet you STILL have serious fears and anxiety.  You see, we ALL have had our “organic” computer (subconscious minds- SM) programmed since we were young by events, comments, traumas, etc. Because our SM’s job is to protect us from things real OR imagined.   Like the hard drive of a computer, ALL we’ve ever experienced and learned is stored there.  We then spend the rest of our lives responding according to this “programming” AND we don’t even realize it.

This motivated me to pursue hypnosis, because although Father has used me in the lives of many, many people, what I saw was people would often have an issue (like a habit, fear, addiction, depression, etc.) that seemed to “hang on” EVEN THOUGH they had experience a large measure of freedom.  Now, not only will these folks be eternally set free in Jesus, and become a “new creation”, but their soul can be set free AS WELL from those old “tapes” programmed in the SM!!!

Is it evil or spiritually unhealthy to go to a surgeon to repair something that is physically malfunctioning after you are saved? Of course not!  So why is it so wrong to pursue surgery for your soul? (I’m NOT talking about your spirit….please see the difference)

Simply put here is the best definition of hypnosis I have arrived at (with a lot of help from Dave Elman):

“Hypnosis is a natural state of mind in which the critical factor of the conscious mind is bypassed, and  an establishment of acceptable selective thinking (resulting in physical & mental relaxation).” 

Here’s another one by Gil Boyne:

  1. An extraordinary quality of relaxation.
  2. An emotionalized desire to satisfy the suggested behaviour: The person feels like doing what the hypnotist suggests, provided that what is suggested does not generate conflict with his belief system.
  3. The organism becomes self-regulating and produces normalization of the central nervous system.
  4. Heightened and selective sensitivity to stimuli perceived by the five senses and four basic perceptions.
  5. Immediate softening of psychic defenses.

­­­___, hypnosis happens ALL the time in life.  Most folks just don’t recognize it.  For example: “highway hypnosis” where you miss an exit; “zoning out” while the teacher is talking; “day dreaming”; “in the zone” are some obvious ones.  There are several biblical examples (words) used that support all that I said above as well (but that’s for another time).

The bottom line is this: hypnosis is neither mysterious nor nefarious; neither unnatural nor supernatural.  It IS as certain as gravity and as scientific as turning water into ice.  The fear Christians have in hypnosis is mistaking that which is unknown for that which is evil.  My dear sister like gravity, just because a person doesn’t believe it exists or they think it’s evil does not protect them from its effect. 

I wasn’t intending on writing so long, but it is extremely important that the truth be told.  Again, I know your intentions were pure and motivated by love in writing what you wrote.  I am not upset with you.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask those questions.  You just happened to be the first…LOL!

Sincerely In Jesus!

Anthony

A PROCLAMATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

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Together, we are to be One,

By One, for One, and in One—

Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are the Bride of Glory,

The Dwelling Place of Father,

The Ecclesia Family,

The Sons of God,

The Body of Light, Truth,

Resurrection Life and divine Unity.

Unite in Life, not in religions,

Nor buildings of institution,

Nor by programs, nor missions,

Nor interpretations, nor religious doctrines,

Nor politics of the nations,

Nor organized ways of man,

But as God’s free people

Living Him within one another,

Expressing only Jesus Christ.

He is our Head, our body Life

In everyday experience;

Every moment of our existence.

Let’s turn around now, and see Him.

Not His things we admire,

But focus upon the Face of Jesus Christ.

This is a proclamation to unite

As One people of God, and see Him as One.

If you are listening with the eyes of your heart,

You will hear the words cry.

Author, Kathy Marie Huff

We Are A Perfect Fit

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I was talking with my friend Kathy the other day about the beauty of the body of Christ; the ekklesia.  We marveled at how wonderfully Father puts us together.  I then said, “Yeah, it’s like we are individual perfect puzzle pieces and Jesus, as the Head, puts us together like puzzle pieces to form an image of HIM.” She then said this,

“He made us complete in order that we might ‘complete’ HIM here on earth.”

Did you get it?  Do you sense the enormity of that statement?  Reread it!  It is profound yet oh so simple!

THIS is simple church…..simply put!

We as individual Christ followers we together form the magnificent puzzle picture of our Lord Jesus.  THAT my dear brother and sister is the ekklesia!  As “living stones” or living puzzle pieces if you will, we allow the world to find Jesus; to see Him; to experience Him.


The koinonia of these individual, complete and perfect pieces form THE house for God to dwell…here and now.  Again, this is truly God’s heart for His family; His people.

My dear family of God is this your experience of “church”?  Do your gatherings reflect this precious imagery of His house?  I don’t care if it’s a house church, traditional church or whatever.  It is the heart of our Father to connect passionate hearts for Jesus and to form these into His house and an image of His dear Son and our savior Jesus.

Let us ALL be consumed with Jesus alone, and ask Father to unite our hearts with others with a similar passion for His Son.

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